Torchwood: Miracle Day - Conference Call
by Jef Burnham
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Excerpts from a conference call with Russell T. Davies, John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Alexa Havins, and members of the press.
What inspired you [Russell T. Davies] to write about this theme of never-ending death?
Russell T. Davies: It was kind of like an old idea that’s been in my head for years, possibly about a decade or something. It’s kind of an old classical idea. I think it happens in medieval mythology and stuff like that, death taking time off and leaving the world and things like that. And I just thought it would fit Torchwood marvelously and that we would have ten hours to explore what would happen to the world— what would really happen to the world instead of making it like a fable or a fairy tale.
So it was just kind of irresistible, because Torchwood now is about big ideas. So that was the big idea.
[For Alexa Havins] You’ve got this fresh perspective on Torchwood and it’s such a different world to be in. You’ve done comedy and drama and so forth but did it take you a while to get used to this?
Alexa Havins: I think I just had to take a breath and just trust what Russell wrote, because even sometimes we’re reading things and it’s this spider web of all these fabulous ideas that are so out there in the sci-fi world. But he takes them and he roots them in reality, and so I just had to trust what was on the page. And whereas, before, you kind of know exactly what’s happening, with this we didn’t because we didn’t even know where Russell’s mind was taking us. So I would say that would be the biggest adjustment.
Just a question for John and Eve, where are your characters mentally when the series begins?
John Barrowman: I can also tell you kind of physically also what’s going on with Jack. He’s come back from his travels. We don’t know what he has done. That is something that maybe will be explored one day, but […] we figure he has dealt with some of his issues and he has come back to planet Earth— and he’s come to keep the Torchwood name below the radar. He’s come to make sure, because he knows that this thing Torchwood hurts people and destroys relationships.
Therefore, he knows that Gwen Cooper is still alive and he’s protecting her from a distance and kind of unbeknownst to her. So he’s really kind of the guardian keeping it all under wraps and not letting it come out. So there is kind of a mental state with him that he is determined not to let anybody else get hurt, not to allow bad things to happen through this organization. Although he loves the organization he has got to let. It’s had its course and he’s trying to keep it quiet. I’ll hand it over to Eve now.
Eve Myles: Well, you’ll find Gwen Cooper living in complete isolation and completely self-sufficient and cut off from the world. I mean, she’s living with her six-month-old baby girl and her husband. And they’re living in this very, very remote, beautiful cottage somewhere in Wales overlooking the sea, and that is their life. So you’ve gone from this woman who has saved the universe to being completely cut off and it’s quite sad and it’s very unusual to see Gwen Cooper in this kind of place. And the only person that she can tell stories about her past and Torchwood to is a little baby whilst giving her dinner.
So it’s a very lonely place actually for Gwen Cooper. And then, unbeknownst to her, as John has said, he’s been Gwen Cooper’s somewhat guardian angel. He’s been keeping her and her family safe. She thinks by being in isolation and being hidden away from the world, she’s keeping her family safe, but actually there is a bigger picture to it. […] We see her looking like she’s having this somewhat idyllic life, but actually there isn’t a cupboard or a closet in the house that hasn’t got some sort of explosives kit or a gun or a grenade or a knife or some sort of weapon, because she knows one day it’s going to come knocking.
She’s constantly on alert and boy does it come knocking. It comes knocking with helicopters and rocket launchers. So the girl was right.
Is this “mommy kicking butt theme” something that’s going to be recurring throughout the season? And does this parallel your life with a new baby?
Eve Myles: Yes, she doesn’t stop kicking ass in the entire series. She is like a lioness with her cubs. She’s absolutely fierce and yes, she uses her fists a lot. She uses a lot of weapons, but it’s all very grounded and very real, and quite a lot of it is quite humorous as well. So she is really quite militant this year and full on.
And trying to compare it with my life: my god, the only confrontation I have normally is with myself in the mirror in the morning. No, I can’t bear being away from my little darling Matilda. And to think of the pressure that Gwen Cooper has on the show every day is unbelievably crazy and huge, so no, I can’t make a comparison at all, although we do have tight tempers the both of us.
What was it like having some new actors come in from the other side of the pond, so to speak, making it an international cast— for all of you to answer?
Russell T. Davies: From my point of view, it was just brilliant […] to get Alexa in and to get Mekhi in, Bill Pullman as well. It was just a whole new infusion of energy— new voices, a new spirit. It just opens the doors for new viewers and it’s just a delight to work with them. Absolutely brilliant. I’d hope Alexa would say the same. What do you think?
Alexa Havins: It’s been rough. I don’t know. No. It’s been a great experience, definitely. I mean, from my standpoint it’s interesting. There is a slight parallel, but an interesting one, between my character, Esther, and Gwen in the original first season. And that was an honor to kind of take over that [role] of introducing the new audience. […] I kind of feel like it was passed on to us to say, “Welcome to the world of Torchwood” to the American viewers that weren’t privy to the world already.
It’s a neat way of starting the fourth season strong while bringing in the new viewers. They don’t have to have watched the past episodes. […] You just jump on for this ride. It’s not a ton of back story/exposition.
There is a moment where Jack realizes that he is mortal and there was a distinct look of fear on his face. I wanted to know what was going on in Jack’s head in that moment? And also, how easy was it to slip Jack Harkness back on as a character?
John Barrowman: Jack Harkness is so easy to slip back on because it’s like his coat. It’s very easy to put your arms in and wear it. And it’s such a part of me that it comes very naturally.
As to the other part of the question, in regards to him discovering his mortality: Yes, there was an element of fear in his face because it’s something he’s never experienced before. It’s something that he… well, until the point where he became immortal, he never really had that moment of fear. And to have that and to realize that his body wasn’t healing— that he could die— it was also a moment of confusion, because how does he deal with this? How does he handle this situation? What can he do?
He’s always been the one who has been the man who put himself in front of harm’s way to help people, gone boldly into those situations not fearing any of it and all of a sudden, my goodness, he can’t do this. So it’s also a little bit of excitement too, because he can experience a lot of things that he’s never experienced before. And that’s what’s really wonderful about the journey with Jack when this discovery has happened, because he starts not only having a little bit of fear but he also starts to live a little.
Is the season going to end in a cliffhanger?
Russell T. Davies: I don’t want to give away too much. It’s a riveting last episode that has shocks and explosions galore, and real big, proper revelations— at least enough to say that all your questions are answered, if people are worried.
I don’t like series that reach a great, big cliffhanger that demands you come back the next year. I think the next year should start again from scratch. So you needn’t worry about everything in Miracle Day being answered. Literally everything you are wondering about is answered in detail not just in the last episode but especially as you hit episodes 7, 8, 9 and 10. It all gets answered, but you do have to keep watching until the very last seconds to find out everything.
As Torchwood drifts further from Doctor Who— now that it’s its own self-sustaining series and it’s come “across the pond”— what are the chances that fans will see cross-overs between the two series in the future?
Russell T. Davies: Yes. It’s interesting that. It’s probably less, to be honest, because when I used to run Doctor Who and Torchwood I could sort of spin those things quite easily in my head and talk things over. Now they are two separate production teams and I’m so out of touch with Doctor Who that I’m not even sure when it’s on air, because they’ve got these very expensive plans and split seasons and I don’t know what they’re planning for 2012 at all. So it would kind of be difficult now.
Then again, I could just phone them up and ask them. It’s not impossible, but I think, you know, we’ve got Torchwood now standing on its own two feet. I think it was always on its own two feet, but I think in the public’s eye there is a nice separation now and that they see it as this big, strong, muscular program. So I’m not in a rush to sort of go back and backtrack or anything. Nonetheless we would always exist in the same happy, lovely, created universe. So I think there will be always lots of references to and fro. But frankly, who needs that Doctor and his box?
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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